Hazzard orders mental health practice review after patient death

Date: May 23, 2017

Practices across NSW’s mental healthcare system are under review, with Minister for Health Brad Hazzard describing the death of a 46-year-old woman in 2014 as “shocking”.

Miriam Merten was left in a seclusion room at Lismore Base Hospital for several hours before a nurse unlocked her door. News Corp Australia video footage then shows Ms Merten wandering around the corridors naked and unsupervised before she collapses in a corner.

She died on June 3 from traumatic and hypoxic brain injury caused by repeated falls and self-beating her head on various surfaces, according to coroner Jeff Linden.

Ms Merten was alleged to have hit her head at least 20 times while in the seclusion room. Two nurses meant to be monitoring the mother-of-two were later found guilty of professional misconduct and stood down.

Lack of humanity “astounding”

In light of her death, NSW Chief Psychiatrist Dr Murray Wright will undertake a review of various mental health practices, including the process of secluding patients and the use of restraints.

“The circumstances surrounding Ms Merten’s treatment and subsequent death in 2014 are shocking, and the lack of humanity in her care astounding,” said Mr Hazzard.

Minister for Mental Health Tanya Davies echoed Mr Hazzard’s comments, describing the woman’s treatment as “completely unacceptable”.

One of the nurses responsible, Christine Borthistle, had already been sacked from Lismore Base Hospital but was later reinstated, according to the Daily Mail. Ms Borthistle died suddenly in April soon after receiving a five-year ban from nursing.

“Ms Merten had her dignity denied, she was confused and distressed. She needed attention, care and compassion,” said Ms Davies.

“The circumstances have caused untold distress to her family, and also other families who are worried whether their loved ones with mental health conditions requiring acute care are being cared for humanely.”

Making a medical negligence claim

Patients who suffer negligence at the hands of medical practitioners may be eligible for compensation if they can prove they were owed a duty of care and that this obligation was breached.

Gerard Malouf & Partners regularly deals with instances of nursing negligence in which claimants feel the treatment they received from professionals was below standard. This includes a failure to adequately check on patients following surgery or while under care, such as in Ms Merten’s case.

If you would like to talk to an expert personal injury lawyer about medical negligence claims, please contact a member of our team today.

Call us now on 1800 004 878 to book a free appointment with one of my compensation experts, or email your enquiry.